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Advocacy

In a culturally ambitious nation, artistic enterprise, creative innovation and respect for culture are entrenched and the immense public value of arts and creativity is recognised. These values drive our advocacy.

For half a century the Australia Council has been an advocate for the role and careers of artists, and the importance of the arts to our nation’s social, economic and cultural success. Through our research, deep sector knowledge and evidence-based advice we seek to inform and influence policy development, investment, arts activity and public debate. Our advocacy is implicit in our functions defined in the Australia Council Act 2013.

As a priority under our new strategy Creativity Connects Us, published in August 2019, the Australia Council is elevating advocacy to ensure greater recognition of the public value of arts and creativity. We aim to increase awareness of the value of public investment in arts and culture to ensure a well-supported cultural sector which delivers even greater social, cultural and economic returns.

The Council’s national leadership role in research and evaluation is a critical foundation of our advocacy for the arts. Our research is internationally recognised; frequently referenced by our international peers and the media and is revisited long after its initial release. In 2018–19 the Council published a substantial body of new research and analysis on arts tourism, arts and disability and the role of artists and creativity in the future, as well as an online tool to explore engagement with the arts in each of Australia’s 150 federal electorates. Our research was featured in 42 media reports in 90 days from April to July 2019 across print, online and broadcast media, reaching an estimated media audience of more than 27 million.

In 2019, under the auspices of the Meeting of Cultural Ministers, the Council commenced a partnership with the New Zealand Ministry of Culture and Heritage to work on a joint project that will help both organisations measure and articulate the public value of arts and culture. It will provide new evidence to inform strategic decisions and enhance discussions about the value of the arts and will contribute to development of New Zealand’s wellbeing framework.

Senior staff gave plenary and keynote addresses and appeared on panels on a range of topics throughout 2018–19, including at the 5th National Indigenous Economic Forum; Meeting Place; Diversity Arts Australia’s Fair Play Creative Industries Symposium; CEDA’s Women in Leadership – diversity in the arts event; Createx Festival; REMIX Sydney; and the International Metropolis Conference. Important insights from our National Arts Participation Survey have continued to drive deeper insights about the value of the arts to social cohesion, and as part of our Arts Futures body of work, the Council has been leading a series of public conversations about the value of the arts and creativity across industries into the future, including a Vivid Ideas event.

In 2018–19 the Council stepped up our advocacy in the media. Senior staff appeared across broadcast, online and print media contributing to discussions on issues impacting the sector. Among the discussions Council staff have contributed to are the public value of the arts, measures to address the proliferation of inauthentic First Nations art, and the push for increased diversity in the arts.

"I don’t care how big or how small you are. If you don’t have anything to say about the diversity of communities that now call Australia home then you’re out of touch."
The Australia Council’s CEO, Adrian Collette, told the ABC that arts companies must be focused on diversity if they are to be effective.1

As a Commonwealth agency, the Council works with the government of the day and their policies. We work collaboratively with other agencies and departments to build awareness across government of Australia’s arts and cultural interests, to increase understanding of the intrinsic and instrumental value of the arts, and to advocate for the ways in which Australian artists and audiences can be effectively supported. We actively contributed to the review of the National Arts and Disability Strategy in 2018–19, working closely with the lead agency, the Department of Communications and the Arts. Our Creating Pathways research highlighted important insights about pay gaps and disparities for artists with disability.2

The Council also advocates on key issues through submissions to government and appearances at parliamentary inquiry hearings. In 2018–19 the Council provided evidence-based submissions to the Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts Inquiry into the Australian Music Industry; the Department of Foreign Affairs Soft Power Review; and Austrade’s Beyond Tourism 2020 Consultation. We continued to advocate for the critical role of arts and culture in the Closing the Gap Refresh; for initiatives to address fake First Nations arts; and for appropriate support structures, protection and remuneration for Australian artists.

"Our artists should be celebrated – and they should be remunerated accordingly."
Australia Council Chair Sam Walsh AO’s Australia Council Awards speech was widely cited.

The Council advocates for increased public and private investment in the arts. In 2018–19 we continued to build on the success of our existing partnerships to pursue new sources of co-investment, leveraging our funding and expertise to increase support for Australian arts.

Investing in the arts to increase Australia’s soft power

In October 2018, the Australia Council made a submission to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Soft Power Review. It argued that greater investment in arts and culture could increase our soft power capabilities and support the goals of the Foreign Policy White Paper.

Artists are among Australia’s greatest assets for ‘standing out’ in an international context and Australia’s position of influence is increasingly impacted by the attractiveness of our culture. The creative and political freedom enjoyed by Australian artists attracts foreign investment, and signals to the world that we are a diverse, open and innovative nation. The partnerships created through arts and culture strengthen bilateral relationships with existing allies and offer an accessible connection point for emerging relationships, shared knowledge and exchange. Australia is yet to fully recognise the value of arts and culture to soft power and our foreign policy goals.

Two people seated on red carpet looking at women's faces on a screen.
Angelica Mesiti, ASSEMBLY, 2019 (production still) three-channel video installation in architectural amphitheater. HD video projections, colour, sixchannel mono sound, 25 mins, dimensions variable. © Photography: Josh Raymond. Commissioned by the Australia Council for the Arts on the occasion of the 58th International Art Exhibition–La Biennale di Venezia, courtesy of the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Australia and Galerie Allen, Paris.

Advocating for increased support for Australian music

In October 2018, the Australia Council made a submission to the Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts inquiry into the Australian music industry. Executive Director Frank Pannucci, Arts Practice Director Paul Mason and Research Director Rebecca Mostyn appeared before the committee in November 2018.

The Council highlighted concerns about the substantial oversubscription of our grants program and argued that supporting infrastructure should be expanded to meet increasing need in the music sector. Our submission was cited substantially in the committee’s report, which recommended increased investment in the Council’s grants programs.

Tara Tiba head shot looking into the camera.
A Council project grant supported production of Tara Tiba’s sophomore album Omid released in 2019. Credit: Stef King.

Footnotes

  1. Michaela Boland 2019, ‘New Australian CEO says arts companies that ignore diversity are ‘out of touch”,’ ABC Arts, 20 February 2019.
  2. Australia Council 2018, Creating Pathways: Insights on support for artists with disability.